1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment

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1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment
1er Régiment de Parachutistes d'Infanterie de Marine
Insigne régimentaire du 1° RPIMa.jpg
Regimental insigne
Active 1941 – present
Country France France
Branch Logo of the French Army (Armee de Terre).svg Armée de Terre
Type Special Forces
Role
• Direct Action
• Special reconnaissance
• Counter- terrorism
• Foreign internal defense
• Unconventional Warfare
Other Roles:
• Hostage rescue
• Personnel recovery
• Humanitarian missions
• Information operations
Size One regiment
Part of Insigne de La Brigade des forces spéciales terre.gif Army Special Forces Brigade
Garrison/HQ Bayonne, France
Motto(s) Qui Ose Gagne (Who Dares Wins)
Anniversaries Saint-Michel Day
Engagements

World War II
First Indochina War
Lebanese Civil War

Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Licorne
Operation Serval
Global War on Terrorism (2001–present)
Commanders
Current
commander
Colonel Laurentin
Insignia
Identification symbol Parachutistes coloniaux-béret.jpg
Abbreviation 1er R.P.I.Ma

The 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (French: 1er Régiment de Parachutistes d'Infanterie de Marine, 1er R.P.I.Ma) is one of three regiments (1er R.P.I.Ma, 13e Régiment de Dragons Parachutistes (13e R.D.P), 4e R.H.F.S) in the French Army Special Forces Brigade (B.F.S.T).

Heir to the traditions of the paratroops of the Special Air Service of Free France and French Indochina, the regiment is the only French unit in mainland France to use the motto « Qui ose gagne » translated from the British Army SAS motto Who Dares Wins.[1]

Origins[edit]

Quite unusually for the French Armed Forces, the affiliations of this unit are various, indirectly related and numerous. The regiment is heir simultaneously to formations of the French Air Force, mainland infantry, Troupes coloniales and Troupes de marine.

World War II[edit]

Indochina War[edit]

Members of the French Squadron SAS (1st Parachute Chasseur Company,1ere Compagnie de Chasseurs Parachutistes,1eCCP) during the link-up between advanced units of the 1st and 8th armies in the Gabes-Tozeur area of Tunisia. Previously a company of Free French paratroopers, the French SAS were the first of a range of units 'acquired' by Major Stirling as the SAS expanded..

The Colonial Battalions

The Colonial Brigades

Post Indochina[edit]

The Brigade

The Regiment

History, garrisons, campaigns and battles[edit]

Despite of its name, the 1er RPIMa does belong to the French Army. The Naval Infantry background dates back to 1762 when units of the French Army were detached to the French Navy for ship borne and overseas duties.

Heir to the first Colonial Parachute Commando Demi-Brigade which origins date back to World War II. Under the impulsion of Captain George Bergé, the 1st Air Company was created in England on September 15 1940, with parachute units of the Special Air Service (SAS) (1e CCP/SAS created in 1941 in Scotland). This company was engaged in Crete, Libya, Tunisia, Bretagne, Belgium, the Netherlands. The company was then dissolved then redesignated as SAS Parachute Demi-Brigade from 1946 to 1949, then 1st Colonial Parachute Commando Demi-Brigade from 1949 to 1955 in Indochina, then B.P.C in Algeria from 1955 to 1958, the B.C.C.P dissolved and redesingated from 1959 to 1960 G.I.B.P.OM then in 1960 B.P.C.I.Ma and renamed in 1962 1erR.P.I.Ma which maintained the guard of the SAS emblem.

Despite of the designation like all Troupes de Marine units, the 1er RPIMa belongs to the French Army. The Naval Infantry background dates back to 1762 when units of the French Army were detached to the French Navy for ship borne and overseas duties.

Successive garrisons[edit]

Marching parade companies of the 1er R.P.I.Ma.

World War II[edit]

  • September 1940 : creation and insctruction at Ringway (England).
  • March 15 1941 : first operation of the Free French Forces in France (Bretagne).
  • Division of sections, one retained and two other sections destined for the Moyen-Orient.
  • July 21 1941 : embarkment to the Moyen-Orient, then garrison in Beirut, then in Damascus.
  • January 2 1942 : section attached to special forces SAS of David Stirling and takes garrison in Kabrit on canal de Suez
  • June 1942 : operation in Crete then Matouba-Derna, Benina, Barce and others.
  • July 1942 : operations in Cyrénaïque.
  • January 1943 : operations in Tunisia.
  • Spring 1943 : instruction at Camberley (England)
  • Beginning 1944 : instruction center of French SAS in Scotland.
  • June 1944 : combined task forces with FFI and 2nd U.S. Division.
  • August 1944 : operations and SAS participation to the Liberation of Paris.
  • November 11 1944 : The 2 French SAS regiment parade on the Champs-Élysées in Paris in presence of général de Gaulle following which the 2nd Parachute Chasseur Regiment was bestowed with the Compagnon de la Libération.
  • December 23 1944 : reinforcements in Ardennes.
  • February 1945 : regouping in England.
  • April 1945 : operations in Pays-Bas.

The 1er RPIMa inherited the traditions of the two Free French Special Air Service (SAS) Regiments that served with distinction alongside their British brothers-in-arms of the SAS Brigade during World War II.

On September 15, 1940, General Charles de Gaulle signed the activation order of the 1ère Compagnie d'Infanterie de l'Air des forces françaises libres (1ère CIA) or 1st Free French Airborne Infantry Company under the command of Captain Bergé.

The 1ère CIA started carrying out operational missions by parachute insertion into occupied France in March 1941. The company was then split into two components, a covert action unit used in clandestine operations and a conventional and uniformed company that was sent to North Africa in September 1941 to fight the Axis Forces with the British Forces.

A very good relationship was quickly established between Captain Bergé and Major Stirling, the commander of the newly created Special Air Service (SAS); the French detachment was soon incorporated into the SAS and became the French Squadron. From 1942 to 1943, the French SAS roamed the region, ranging as far as Crete hunting down Axis forces and destroying their aircraft and supply dumps.

In November 1943, the 3ème and 4ème Bataillons d'Infanterie de l'Air were created and incorporated in the SAS Brigade with their British and Belgian counterparts of the 1st and 2nd SAS Regiments.

The Free French SAS took an important part in the liberation of Europe. In Brittany, a little after midnight on D-Day June 6, 1944, Caporal Emile Bouétard (born in Brittany, 1915) was the first killed in action in Plumelec, Morbihan. On August 1, 1944, the 3ème and 4ème Bataillons d'Infanterie de l'Air were renamed 2ème and 3ème Régiments de Chasseurs Parachutistes. As a reward for their bravery, King George VI, awarded the Free French SAS the red beret of the British SAS which replaced the black beret worn until then. As the war drew to a close, 52 French SAS "sticks" (705 men) were parachuted over the Netherlands on April 7, 1945, causing major havoc in the rear areas of German occupation forces and easing pressure on the forward thrust of the 2nd Canadian Army Corps.

On May 8, 1945, the Free French SAS could look back with pride at their achievements. They had been amongst the very first to join Sir David Stirling in North Africa and had taken a major part in the epic battles of the SAS in Africa, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, earning French and foreign awards in so doing (including many British DSOs, MCs and MMs). The regimental colours of the 1er RPIMa have also been decorated with the U.S. Bronze Star Medal, the Dutch Bronzen Leeuw and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. Today, this SAS heritage is still evident through its regimental motto "Qui Ose Gagne" ("Who Dares Wins") and in the awarding of the RAPAS Wings, reminiscent of the wartime SAS "Operational Wings" that can only be awarded to 1er RPIMa operators after they have successfully passed a series of strict selection requirements, including operational deployments.

1945-1974[edit]

Between 1945 and 1954 the unit that was later to become the 1er RPIMa after a series of name changes, took part in the war in Indochina, performing several of the more than 160 combat jumps carried out by French paratroopers during that conflict. After the war, the regiment underwent structural changes and became a training depot for the entire colonial airborne forces. As such, it did not take part in the Algerian conflict.

In 1960 1er RPIMa is created. It remained in the training role until 1974 when the 1er RPIMa was transformed into a Special Forces unit, a role it still has today.

1974-2006[edit]

Its mission has been mostly to support France's interests in Africa between 1974 and 1981, the 1er RPIMa underwent another mission change, it then focused on Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols for almost a decade, while it still used its training skills training friendly forces abroad.

The 80s and 90s were busy years for the regiment; these were the days when it deployed dozens of times to various hotspots on the planet. While engaged in Operation Desert Storm, the 1er RPIMa lost two of its men in Iraq in 1991.

A year later, the creation of the French Special Operations Command (Commandement des Opérations Spéciales, COS) led to a major shake-up of French special forces units in order to incorporate what had been learned in the First Gulf War. As part of this process, in 1997, the nucleus of what was to become the army's BSFT (Brigade des Forces Spéciales Terre) (Special Forces Brigade Land) was created and the 1er RPIMa became its core unit. All the while, the regiment participated in operations in the Balkans and in Africa; it was specifically involved in stalking war criminals in Bosnia, leading to several successful arrests of individuals indicted for war crimes.

Today[edit]

Shoulder insignia

Part of the French Army Special Forces Brigade (BFST), the 1er RPIMa is a modern, highly skilled and experienced Special Forces unit organized along company lines. The main strength of the regiment lies in its three RAPAS companies (RAPAS meaning Airborne Reconnaissance and Special Action) each specialised in a specific field such as HAHO/HALO, Counter-Terrorism, amphibious, jungle, mountain or motorized patrols operations and its RAPAS Signal company dedicated to the C3 (Command, Control and Communications) support of Special Operations.

The 1er RPIMa also fields a Training and Operations company tasked with providing selection, basic and continuation training of the unit's manpower and a Logistics company which supports the regiment in its daily and operational missions.

Unit specialization[edit]

  • CTLO (Counter-terrorism and hostage rescue teams (InvEX))
  • GDC (Bodyguards Garde du Corps)
  • THP (Snipers Tireurs Haute Précision)
  • RCO (Paratrooper – Rapas Chuteurs Opérationnels)
  • PRS (motorized patrols Patrouilles de Reconnaissances Speciales(PAT-SAS))
  • RPO (Combat divers Rapas Plongeurs Offensifs)
  • Mountain/arctic, desert and jungle warfare
  • Explosives and demolitions

Organisation and structure[edit]

Due to its long history with the British Special Air Service much of the 1er RPIMa core aspects are based upon the British SAS. Each company specialises in a particular area such as maritime, air and parachuting operations, mobility.

  • Four main RAPAS (standing for Airborne Research and Special Action) combat companies:
    • 1e Compagnie (Paratroopers HAHO, HALO / Combat divers/ Urban warfare, counter-terrorism and bodyguards)
    • 2e Compagnie (Mountain, arctic, desert and jungle warfare)
    • 3e Compagnie (Motorized patrols)
    • 4e Compagnie (Recon, acquisition, training)

There is also one Command and Logistics Company and a Training and Operations company which is in charge of providing the selection, initial and continuation training.

Each company is split in RAPAS sections. Each section includes 30 men.

The 1er RPIMa is based in Bayonne, what makes possible amphibious and mountain training. It is also ideal as it is very close to the Centre d'Entrainement Adaptee (CTA), Europe's largest and most modern Close Quarter Battle (CQB) facility and to the dedicated assets of the French army's Special Forces Aviation Detachment (DAOS) and airborne school (ETAP), two establishments that are essential to its training and operations.

Weapons and equipment[edit]

The main weapon used by the 1er RPIMa is the HK416 5.56 assault rifle, instead of the FA-MAS. Besides this , SIG 550, M4 and FN SCAR assault rifles are also used by French Army Special Forces. Sometimes M203 or HK69 grenade launchers are also used. For CQB the MP5 series and FN P90 are used as the main weapons , the 10.5 inches version of the HK416 is also sometimes used. The Glock 17 and H&K USP are the standard sidearm carried by the soldiers. The ARWEN 37 mm grenade launcher is used in CQB work to launch CS gas into buildings. The Benelli M4 shotgun is also used during CQB, to take down doors. FN Minimi is used as light machine gun, 5,56mm and 7,72 mm, and Snipers use the H&K 417 or Hecate II rifles. Sometimes MILAN missiles have used in combat to provide fire support.

They wear standard French camouflage and webbing, except when doing CT/HR/CQB work. CQB kit includes a black balaclava, black nomex coveralls, non-slip boots, special webbing and holsters, medical kit for teams medics, gas masks, and special communications equipment.

VPS Panhard VPS(Véhicule Patrouille SAS), based on the Mercedes-Benz 270 CDI G-Class 4x4 light tactical vehicle, is the vehicle used by French Army Special Forces. It is a rapidly deployable vehicle capable of long-duration missions in extremes of climate. An armored floor provides anti-landmine protection to the crew and VPS is air transportable by C-160 Transall or C-130 Hercules. In the French Army the VPS is equipped with 360° ring-mount over the rear body which is armed with a Browning 12.7mm heavy machine gun or Gatling machine gun. One more 7.62mm machine is mounted on swivel station at the front of the crew compartment which is operated by the vehicle commander.

Skills[edit]

The 1er RPIMa is tasked with several jobs. These include: Bodyguarding VIPs in hotzones, Direct Action, Reconnaissance, Sabotage, Unconventional Warfare and Hostage rescue. While their name states they are Marine Infantry, they are in fact Army and have no amphibious training.

The 1er RPIMa relies on a number of skills to successfully carry out its missions. Most skills are either regiment or brigade-specific and need constant honing to be kept at the desired level of proficiency. They can be divided into several generic fields:

  • The RAPAS (Airborne Reconnaissance and Special Action) basic skills
    • The RAPAS skills are given to Enlisted men and NCOs after they have completed a series of organic and basic regimental courses
    • Basic training leading to the first rung of the RAPAS ladder is the elementary RAPAS technical certificate which is 6 months long.
    • RAPAS training covers all the basics of the SF operator's functions. It is then complemented by specific courses (DZ and LZ marking, basic and advanced CQB, sniping…)
    • A RAPAS group is led by a senior NCO or a Lieutenant. NCOs are generally former enlisted men who have risen from the ranks of the regiment while officers come from various specialized schools (mostly Infantry, Armour and Engineer) before following a specific course complemented by on job training within the groups.
    • When fully qualified and operational, a RAPAS team member has reached the rank of Caporal-chef (Master Corporal), and has been in the regiment for five years and spent more than two thirds of his time in the regiment following courses and has been deployed on real-world operations probably once a year.
  • Air insertion
    • Parachute operations: each member of the regiment is static-line parachute qualified using some specific low-altitude (125 meters) dropping techniques. The 1er RPIMa can also field different teams proficient in both HAHO and HALO techniques. Each company has a HALO capability.
    • Helicopter operations: Fast-roping and helicopter rappelling, special purpose infiltration and extraction rigs, LZ marking, special operation procedures, helicopter fire support, helicopter-borne sniper support, light helicopter insertion and extraction
    • Air delivery: the 1er RPIMa is unique in the way it has integrated air delivery component with teams able to rig and airdrop light to heavy loads and pallets in support of special operations from cargo aircraft of dedicated special operations division of the French air force.
  • Amphibious operations
    • Open circuit breathing apparatus: the 1er RPIMa can field a complete open air circuit (scuba) team for beach recce or riverine operations using light crafts, including kayaks
    • Closed circuit breathing apparatus: the 1er RPIMa can field a complete closed circuit team for covert underwater missions. This team is not a combat diver team; its purpose is to use waterways as another infiltration method.
  • Motorised operations
    • True to their SAS ancestors, the 1er RPIMa has always maintained a motorized patrol capability. It currently centres on PATSAS patrols that are tasked with developing and refining the methods and equipment needed for such operations. In addition to the PATSAS, each RAPAS company fields several motorised RAPAS groups. The mounts of motorised patrols are modified Peugeot P4s, Mercedes VPS and ACMAT VLRA trucks, all fitted with machine guns, automatic cannons, mortars, AGLs or ATGWs.
    • The Special Recce Patrols (PRS): Having understood with time and experience that it is always better to act on intelligence which had been gathered and analyzed by operators that intimately know which method of operation would be best used by the action groups, the 1er RPIMa has decided to include in its specialized teams the PRS concept. The PRS are infiltrated ahead of the action teams and provide real time intelligence on the target area. The information gathered by the PRS is then transmitted by a variety of secure means to the command level which then disseminates it to the action groups.
  • Counter Terrorism
    • The 1er RPIMa can field several CT teams, all backed by specialized sniper teams proficient in calibers ranging from 5.56 mm to 12.7 mm (.50 cal)
    • All ranks of the company are CT trained
    • The Regiment benefits from proximity to the Centre d'Entraînement Adapté (CTA), Europe's largest and most modern CQB facility (CQB = Close Quarters Battle or Killing House). The CTA is located in Pau and offers unmatched live firing capabilities for all sorts of CT scenarios.
    • The CQB skills are kept honed to a high level thanks to regular training in the CTA and cross training with French and Allied CT units.
  • Bodyguard teams
    • The 1er RPIMa has been involved in bodyguard duties for the last 25 years.
    • The Regiment only provides Bodyguard teams to high-ranking officials at theater level.
    • A fully qualified RAPAS team member is also Bodyguard qualified
  • Jungle, desert and mountain operations
    • So as to prepare RAPAS units of the 1er RPIMa for operations over difficult terrain it can use French and foreign training centers on the world
    • Mountain, jungle and desert training exercises are scheduled every year
    • RAPAS team members are sent regularly as permanent instructors to jungle and desert schools in French Guyana or friendly African countries
    • Every year, the Regiment sends some of its members to foreign schools to improve its tactics and procedures in hostile environments (jungle, bush…)
    • A regular influx of experienced NCOs volunteering from the French 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade keeps the Regiment up-to-date on modern mountaineering techniques

Selection and training[edit]

Officers and NCOs joining the regiment have to attend the same selection and training as enlisted personnel.

Enlisted soldiers in the French Army can try to join super RPIMA, between their first and third years of active duty.

First step is a profile selection: Candidates will be selected regarding unit requirements and personal file (e.g. if the regiment needs some mountain specialists, they will ask for more mountain troopers to come for the selection). Candidates selected must attend the two weeks basic airborne training prior the SF training, for those who are not already enlisted in an airborne regiment.

Second step of selection is "adaptation training" and "stage commando" lasting twelve weeks. Candidates must be above average to continue the training. Most cases of failure and RTU occur during this phase.

The last step of selection is the "stage CTE RAPAS" lasting six months. After completion of this "stage", candidates are fully assigned to the regiment as special force soldier. They will attend additional training to become specialists (bodyguards, pathfinders, etc.)

Traditions[edit]

The Anniversary of the Troupes de Marine[edit]

The anniversary is celebrated for combats in Bazeilles, the village which was apprehended and abandoned four consecutive times under orders, respectively on August 31 and September 1 1870.

Et au Nom de Dieu, vive la coloniale !

In the Name of God, vive la coloniale !

The Marsouins and the Bigors have for Saint, God. This war calling concludes intimate ceremonies which part life in the regiments. Often also at origin as an act of grace to Charles de Foucauld.

Saint-Michael: paratrooper regiment, the 1er R.P.I.Ma celebrates each year on September 29, the Patron-Saint of Paratroopers. A celebration with lieu of various manifestations in presence of veterans.

Motto[edit]

« Who dares wins » is the general motto of the British SAS, translated in French to « Qui ose gagne ».

Insignia[edit]

Regimental Colors[edit]

Parachutistes coloniaux-béret.jpg
Regimental Colors of the 1eR.P.I.Ma

Honors[edit]

Battle honours[edit]

The list of operations shows a world-wide commitment since it ranges from Afghanistan to Africa and the Balkans.

Decorations[edit]

The most decorated French and allied unit of the Second World War

The men of this regiment bear wearing the Fourragere:

  • The Fourragère bearing colors of the Légion d'Honneur 1re Brigade de Parachutistes Coloniaux
  • The fourragere bearing colors of the Croix des T.O.E
  • The fourragere bearing colors of the Valeur Militaire
  • The fourragere bearing colors of the Croix de la libération (since June 18, 1996).( that of the 2e R.C.P).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Le 2e R.P.I.Ma, régiment outre-mer de Forces armées de la Zone Sud de l'océan Indien (FAZSOI) basé sur l'ile de la Réunion, dispose aussi de cette devise inscrite sur son insigne régimentaire.
  2. ^ In Paras de la France libre ( Paras of Free France ), page 21
  3. ^ In Histoire des parachutistes français (History of French Paratroopers), page 13
  4. ^ "Édition Chronologique n° 45 du 29 octobre 2010".Le Ministère de la Défense instruction n°1515/DEF/EMA/OL/2 du 23 septembre 1983, modifiée, sur les filiations et l'héritage des traditions des unités; décision n°010318/DEF/CAB/SDBG/CPAG du 15 juillet 2008 portant création d'une commission des emblèmes. Art 1er. L'inscription "Koweït 1990-1991" est attribuée aux drapeaux et étendards des formations des armées énumérées ci-dessous. 2e R.E.I, 1er R.E.C, 6e R.E.G, 3e R.I.Ma, 1er R.P.I.Ma, 11e R.A.Ma, 4e Régiment de dragon, 1er Régiment de Spahis, 6e Régiment de Commandement et de Soutien, 1er R.H.C, 3e R.H.C, puis les formations de l'Armée de l'Air les 5e, 7e, 11e escadre de chasse, la 33e escadre de reconnaissance et les 61e et 64e escadre de transport. Le présent arrêté sera publié au bulletin officiel des armées, Hervé Morin.
  5. ^ Collectivité décorées de la Légion d’honneur, 1er brigade de parachutistes coloniaux Archived January 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. - Ordre de la Légion d’honneur, France-Phaleristique.com

External links[edit]

et anciens de la Brigade des Parachutistes Coloniaux héritiers des S.A.S